It’s no secret that NASA scientists love toaboard its missions. Space fans thought they knew about all of the Easter eggs on the — but more surprises were revealed over the weekend, on Easter Sunday.
The first is a unique, 17-digit ID on the mission nameplate, reading “AONREHMELN1730055” — the first official, off-planet Product Identification Number (PIN).
NASA compared it to a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on a car. PIN numbers are given to off-road vehicles, which now includes the six-wheeled, self-driving Mars rover.
PINs and VINs contain unique sets of letters and numbers that can be “decoded” to reveal details about the vehicle. NASA said future spacecraft could also be assigned their own PINs.
Decoding the message
- AON: Characters assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers
- R: The primary vehicle type is Rover
- E: The primary vehicle power is Electric
- H: The secondary vehicle type is Helicopter
- M: The location of operation is Mars
- E: The objective is Science Exploration
- L: Character assigned by the Society of Automotive Engineers
- N: The year predicted to meet the primary vehicle objective is N=2022
- 1: Mission operator plant is 1=NASA
- 7: There are 7 instruments onboard
- 3: Earth is the originating planet (numbered from the sun)
- 0055: Of five attempts, Perseverance is the fifth vehicle that has successfully landed on Mars
The second new Easter egg is a drawing inside the front left wheel of the rover, which shows that “exploration is in our DNA.”
Two small illustrations highlight the rover’s wheel tracks. One appears as normal, as if printed into Martian sand, “highlighting the technical achievements required to traverse the unknown.”
The other is twisted into the shape of DNA, “a reminder that our space robots are of human origin.”
“Humanity’s insatiable desire to explore the unknown is encoded in our DNA, and we have, from our earliest history, invented the tools to make that exploration possible,” NASA said, explaining the engraving. “Our impulse for both exploration and innovation will help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars.”
NASA has hidden plenty of other messages aboard Perseverance, as well as past rovers.
Thecontained the phrase “Dare mighty things” hidden in its pattern, with parts of the pattern representing different numbers in binary code. The outer rings of the pattern also feature GPS coordinates for JPL’s offices in Pasadena, California: 34°11’58” N 118°10’31” W.
The names of 11 million people, as well as the essays of 155 finalists of NASA’s “Name the Rover” contest, were stenciled onto three microchips and attached to a commemorative aluminum plate on the rover. The plaque also featured a hidden message in Morse code within a graphic of Earth and Mars joined together by the sun, reading “Explore As One.”
“These kinds of embellishments add artistic elements on missions that are otherwise solely dominated by science and technology, as well as lasting tributes to colleagues who have helped pave the way for humanity’s exploration of space,” said Jim Bell of Arizona State University, who has helped festoon almost all of NASA’s Mars rovers, including Perseverance.